Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Roger Ahders
Mathematics professor Roger Ahders came to Mendocino College fresh from a doctorate program at Oregon State University (OSU) thirteen years ago, however he grew up in nearby Cloverdale. Jobs were hard to find in 1998, and Ahders looked all over the USA for a suitable teaching position. When an opening occurred at Mendocino College, he was amazed to find such a position so close to his childhood home and family. This unlikely coincidence was so unbelievable to him that he felt liberated from the usual pressures of the interview process. He thinks it was this lack of pressure that gave him the confidence to interview well, and successfully obtain the position that he now fills.
Ahders attended Santa Rosa JC (SRJC) and Sonoma State University (SSU) before moving on to the doctoral program at Oregon State. He met his wife, Heidi, at SSU, and their first child was born while they were both graduate students in mathematics at OSU. Near the end of his PhD program, Ahders says he realized that he did not look forward to the solitary life of a mathematical researcher. He remembered “the old days” as a math tutor at SRJC and SSU fondly, and he realized that his job as a teaching assistant at OSU was a lot more fun than research, so he decided to change his career plans and enter the community college teaching profession.
Quiet and reserved as a student, Ahders says that it was very difficult for him to get up in front of a class when he first started teaching. Nevertheless, he worked two hours a week at the tutoring center at Oregon State, which, he says, gave him a chance to get used to teaching higher math at the college level.
To finance his studies, Ahders worked at a pizza place, and later worked for the Sonoma County road crew, painting lines and signs and driving a dump truck. During a break between his studies at SSU and OSU, Ahders worked as a checker and shelf stocker at the Clover Market in Cloverdale.
Ahders says he has noticed many changes over the years, particularly in increased technology use by both students and faculty. “We used computers in our offices when I came,” he recalls, “but there were no college websites and no online classes. No one had cell phones then, he muses.” Now he uses the web routinely in his classes, and he taught an online course for the first time during the Fall 2010 semester. Nearly all his students have cell phones. He notes the turnover in faculty, due to retirements and new faculty coming in, has been another big change. New buildings, growth in student population, and increased numbers of young students are also significant changes he says.
What he likes best about his job, Ahders says, is that wonderful moment when a student who previously had trouble with math, suddenly “Gets It!” He says his greatest joy is helping people understand the “why” of math. He likes teaching his students “the strategies of the game” so they can successfully solve problems on their own.
When he is not working, Ahders says he enjoys hanging out with family, hiking, fishing, and other “outdoor stuff.” He believes most people would be surprised to know that he makes his own beer - about 25 gallons a year! Ahders and his wife, Heidi, have two children.